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Overcrowded Prison Solution

November 29, 2012, 10:02 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Overcrowded Prison Solution

Overcrowding in South Dakota's prison facilities has many worried about the state's criminal justice system. But a group formed to create a solution, now have a proposal that would decrease the overflow and use taxpayers dollars more effectively.

The Criminal Justice Initiative work group is now proposing a plan they believe will help keep people with non-violent drug felonies out of prison.

"If the shift is more into community corrections, community supervision, work release. Those types of supervision levels on inmates, that could be a real saving for the state. And the county already operates facilities like that," Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

This new plan is made up of several parts that are still being hammered out by the group and the governor's office.

One of the key aspects is determining new ways to deal with offenders, that won't cost the taxpayers money.

"The state's looking at the growing inmate population, the expense to the taxpayers and they recognize with the low crime rate we have in South Dakota and looking at other states that have taken some measure to reduce their inmate population. They're recognizing a need to look at it here," Milstead said.

State's Attorney Aaron McGowan worked on the new initiative and believes as long as certain offenders are not swept aside with lower sentencing, the plan will be a good thing for the state.

"I think we can accomplish the goals of the initiative without watering down the criminal code. Without decriminalizing behavior and having great trust in our judiciary to impose a just sentence," McGowan said.

"While I understand community corrections and community supervisions for lower risk offenders that are possession offender, I still think we need to maintain strict penalties for those who manufacture and  distribute," Milstead said.

The current proposal is still being finalized at the governor's office. Right now, the different options for each section of the plan will be reviewed before it's offered up for possible legislation.

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